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Britain’s ‘queen of pottery’ slumps to £1.4m loss

Emma Bridgewater with some of her Coronation crockery holding a 'God Save the King' mug
Emma Bridgewater's eponymous brand is known for its line of Royal-themed ceramics - Heathcliff O'Malley

Britain’s “queen of pottery” Emma Bridgewater has suffered a near £1.4m loss as her company was forced to heavily discount crockery in the face of fierce online competition.

The Stoke-on-Trent group, founded by eponymous designer Emma Bridgewater, swung to the loss after making a £1.1m profit in the previous year.

Intense competition for homewares during the traditional peak summer season prompted sharper online price reductions, which hit sales growth.

Soaring raw materials prices and higher energy costs to keep its Stoke-on-Trent factory in Hanley whirring also took a toll on profits.

Sales rose 9pc to £36.2m in the year to May 2023, compared with £33.1m a year earlier, latest accounts showed.

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However, it was not enough to offset a near-20pc increase in the cost of production to £21m and a 15pc increase in staff and administrative costs to £16m, which pushed the group into the red.

To offset the downturn, the company has recently laid off dozens of staff from its 480-strong workforce.

It cut 40 jobs last summer and moved to a short-time working pattern of four days per week for two and a half months at the factory.

A further 36 jobs were cut in February and the group underwent another two and a half months of four-day weeks for part-time and full time staff.

The group is now planning to review its level of pottery stocks until 2025 to prevent heavier discounting.

Apprentice potter working at the Emma Bridgewater pottery factory, Stoke-on-Trent
The pottery group, which still manufactures at its Stoke-on-Trent foundry, has had to make cuts to its workforce - Martin Pope

Alongside brands such as Cath Kidston and Boden, Emma Bridgwater carved out a niche for quirky and colourful homewares. It has become known for its line of Royal-themed ceramics, with the then-Prince of Wales unveiling a plaque designed by Ms Bridgewater in 2017 on a visit to Stoke-on-Trent.

Founded by Ms Bridgewater in 1985, she started selling ceramics on a stall in Covent Garden before supplying luxury retailers Harrods and Selfridges.

Alongside her former husband Matthew Rice, the couple bought a Victorian-era pottery factory in Stoke in 1996 which helped fuel the company’s growth.

All its ceramics are still manufactured at the Stoke-on-Trent foundry, and the group is one of the largest pottery makers in the UK.

The group still retains a cult following among fans, with around 30,000 visitors flocking to Emma Bridgwater factory tours every year.